In our previous article, “Constructing a “job statement” to focus innovation,” we discovered that all jobs are made up of discrete process steps with a beginning, middle and end. Whether we are describing a simple job, (for example, receiving a package on the loading dock), or a more complex job that has a hierarchical structure (i.e. performing an inventory audit at the end of year), all jobs can be deconstructed from beginning to end to create a complete picture of all steps where a customer might struggle and desire more help in getting their jobs done better.
The Plan, Do, Check, and Act (PDCA) Continuous Improvement Loop Applied to Jobs
Most of us are familiar with six sigma and continuous improvement tools that are used to improve quality and overall operational execution. Conceptually, these same tools can be applied to help us better understand how customers get their jobs done.
The Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) technique is one of many models we can use as a starting point to break down the process steps involved in executing a job or a chain of jobs.
Figure 1: The continuous improvement process
Without realizing it, we apply plan, do, check and act many times each day when trying to get our jobs done – from the very trivial job of getting a morning drink (coffee, tea, orange juice, water, etc.) to start the day off right, to a more complex job of planning a business trip to meet an important client.
People do jobs to achieve desired outcomes
We begin a job, consciously or unconsciously, by planning (Plan) what we want to get done (our desired outcome), we execute a job (Do), and at the completion the job (or sub job) we discover what parts of the job execution worked and which didn’t (Check). And we may or may not learn and decide what to do differently the next time (Act) to achieve better results.
It’s the last part of the PDCA loop that provides insights as to how to improve a customer’s job so she can achieve 100% satisfaction in achieving her desired outcome.
Think in terms of the purpose for the process, not the process itself
The focus of our analysis is not on “how” customers get jobs done currently but rather on “WHAT” they are trying to get done (desired outcomes) at every step of the job map. Which of these steps do they struggle with? And what steps are they doing that could possibly be eliminated?
Often times people do steps in a process without really thinking or understanding why they are doing these steps. “It’s just the way we do it around here.” Or “that’s how the boss told me to do it.” It reminds me of a story I heard many years ago that goes like this:
A young girl asked her mother, “Mommy, why do you cut the ends off the meat before you cook it?” The girl’s mother replied, “You know, sweetie, I’m not exactly sure. I think it might add to the meat’s flavor, but perhaps you should ask your grandmother since she always did it that way.”
So the little girl finds her grandmother, climbs up on her lap and asks, “Grandma, why do you and Mommy cut the ends of the meat off before you cook it?” Her grandmother responded, “Well, I don’t know about your mom, but I did it because my pot wasn’t big enough.”
Job Maps provide a comprehensive framework to identify metrics customers use to describe success.
Every step along the job map provides us a clear definition from the customer’s perspective, measurements of success. Each step has inputs and outputs associated with it. To the degree customers struggle with getting the right inputs, the level of effort to execute a step, and/or achieve the desired outcomes in executing step, provides the guidepost for the development team to innovate around.
In upcoming articles we will explore desired outcome statements in great depth. What they are, how to uncover them, how to construct them, how to rank them in terms of satisfaction and importance, and finally, which underserved desired outcomes we should focus on to create a new value for the customer.
In till then, keep an eye on the steps that customers are doing. Are they struggling with getting them done? Can you make their steps more simpler? Can you eliminate steps completely and simplify their jobs, reduce time and cost, and increase their satisfaction and create new value? If you can, chances are customers will embrace and hire your solutions.
So watch your steps!